The American Welfare State

A Practical Guide

By Brian Glenn

© 2014 – Routledge

124 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415730051
pub: 2014-04-17
US Dollars$45.95
Hardback: 9780415730044
pub: 2014-04-09
US Dollars$135.00

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About the Book

Through a practical introduction to the policies of the American welfare state—a wide-ranging subject much discussed but seldom described—this concise volume details the four main areas of social welfare policy: housing assistance, nutrition assistance, income assistance, and medical assistance. In plain, approachable language, author Brian Glenn explains, for example, how Section 8 housing vouchers function, what WIC is, the Medicare program, and what Temporary Aid to Needy Families does. It is written in a manner that allows a complete novice to understand these programs in a brisk and comprehensive fashion that is both short enough to assign over a couple of nights in a course and yet detailed enough for the programs to be understood at a quite nuanced level.

Due to federalism, many of these programs differ, sometimes dramatically, from locality to locality, and thus in order to understand how these policies function, Glenn looks at the support a poor household would receive in five cities: Boston, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. This covers not only a geographic spread, but also the range of programs from those on the higher end of the spectrum to those at the lowest levels of support, giving the reader a feel for the range of funding levels and also the variety of different ways programs can be implemented.

In short, this book is meant to be a handy little teaching and research tool that a professor can assign over a night or two to fill a huge gap in the literature on a subject that many want to teach but lack the knowledge and resources to do.


"The American Welfare State offers a highly useful description of the main American social programs. It assembles a great deal of essential information in one place. I know of no other text like this."

—Lawrence M. Mead, Professor of Politics, New York University

"Trying to make sense of America's social safety net can be overwhelming. Glenn has provided a guide that helps the reader understand its essential features while remaining fully aware of all its complexities."

—Beth C. Weitzman, Vice Dean and Professor of Health and Public Policy, New York University

"This is a highly informative book. Readers of this timely account will not only obtain important information and insights about key social policies, but also understand the contexts which explain the political and economic contours of the US social welfare state. This represents a significant contribution to the literature."

—James Jennings, Tufts University

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Income Assistance 3. Housing Assistance 4. Nutrition Assistance 5. Medical Assistance 6. Conclusion.

About the Author

Brian J. Glenn writes about how Americans care for themselves and others in times of need. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Hamilton College, and Wesleyan University, among others. While teaching at Emerson College, his Development of the American Welfare State class was named by the student newspaper one of six courses every student should take before graduating. Brian’s work has received awards from the New England Political Science Association, the Law and Society Association, and the American Risk and Insurance Association.

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